With a group of Christians hovering around the 600 million mark worldwide1, one would expect such a collective to have a substantial impact across a host of areas. That is the resounding reality within the Pentecostal and Charismatic branch of the church. Yet, while many might begin with the unique pneumatological perspective or the practical angle in regards to mass evangelism, and such factors should be noted as major contributions, there are other areas that might not be on one’s radar.
In particular, I would like to point out three positive, yet not as frequently discussed, offerings that Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement have brought to the table.
1) Merging Theology & Practical Life
Today, there are still many leaders that see the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches as more problematic than positive in their contributions, especially in regards to the practical theology. Such was highlighted in the latter part of 2013 as John MacArthur hosted his Strange Fire Conference2, while subsequently releasing his book by the same name.3
Yet, even though there are noted theological problems within Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement, as with every tradition, one must take interest in the growing theological, pastoral and historian giants within this movement. Such include: Amos Yong, Gordon Fee, Jack Deere, Craig Keener, James K.A. Smith, Sam Storms, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Vinson Synan, William Kay, Max Turner, Roger Stronstad, and that is simply a short list of names!
Still, what one will find amongst these theologians is that they do not simply desire to fill up books with theories on pneumatology and charismata. Rather one sees an aspiration to merge both theology and life together. This is particularly noted by Assembly of God theologian, Gordon Fee, in his magnus opum, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul:
“For Paul the Spirit, as an experience and living reality, was the absolutely crucial matter for Christian life, from beginning to end…For the contemporary church it seems less so, both in the academy, in its understanding of Pauline theology, and in the actual life of the church. I do not mean that the Holy Spirit is not present; he is indeed, or we are not in Christ at all. Nonetheless, despite the affirmations in our creeds and hymns and the lip service paid to the Spirit in our occasional conversations, the Spirit is largely marginalized in our actual life together as a community of faith.”4
Fee continues: “…the health of the contemporary church necessitates that its theology of the Spirit and its experience of the Spirit correspond more closely” (emphasis his).5